The South Dakota Department of Health is reporting a very sharp increase in syphilis cases early in 2022, according to data published last week.
According to DOH data, the 5-year median YTD (the average number of cases by this time of year) for Syphilis is 4 cases. This year, the state has recorded 40 cases as of Feb. 8.
This is an increase of 900 percent during this period.
Syphilis is passed during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The infection starts with a single painless lesion that develops within three or four weeks at the site of entry into the body, and often goes unnoticed. Even without treatment, the lesion will spontaneously heal, but left untreated, syphilis progresses to a non-itchy rash on the trunk of the body, palms of the hands or soles of the feet. Other traits of this stage include fever, headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, and fatigue. Syphilis is called The Great Imitator, as its symptoms can be confused with other conditions or get overlooked completely.
Without proper treatment, syphilis can progress to the latent stages and may cause serious health consequences, including neurological damage, blindness, dementia, permanent damage to other vital organs, and death. For pregnant women, syphilis can cause permanent harm or death to a fetus. Syphilis also makes it easier to acquire or transmit HIV.
Syphilis can be cured with penicillin.